It's hard to imagine a scenario where the Twins would trade a promising young starting pitcher for a young stud hitter. However, back in 2007, that very scenario played out. While the trade did not work out for the Twins, the idea may not have been completely off-base. Of course, if the jewel of the trade was able to get on-base more, that may have helped.
The Trade: BREAKDOWN!
The Minnesota Twins traded Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett and Eduardo Morlan to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie.
Young spent nearly four seasons with the Twins, posting a .287/.234/.429 triple slash. That works out to a 103 OPS. Not bad, but not what the Twins were looking for when they dealt Garza. Even in 2010, when Young provided good offensive value, that positive value was completely offset by putrid fielding. Harris was once labeled a "doubles machine" by a very stupid blogger/person writing this right now, but wasn't a very good player for a machine. Jason Pridie played 11 games for the Twins.
Garza has been an average or better pitcher since he left the Twins. He gave the Rays two good seasons, one average season and then the Rays used him to acquire a package of prospects that included Chris Archer. Bartlett may have been the hidden jewel of the trade, providing the Rays with 10.0 WAR over the next three seasons. As the Rays are wont to do, they dispatched Bartlett once his value was used up. Morlan never reached the Majors.
How did I feel at the time?
I was furious. I loved Matt Garza. His debut was electric. He was young and seemed to represent a bit of a departure from the Twins' Radke-style pitchers of old. I loved Brad Radke too, don't get me wrong, but the Twins seemed hell-bent on replicating that success and finding a new Radke. Radke is rare, man. Garza was a fireballer and he was a spit-fire and he was other things related to flames as well. A flamethrower. Although, Delmon Young was on the cover of my 2005 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, so that soothed my fire. Not Garza's though.
Why make the trade?
All along, the Twins said that they wanted a clumsy outfielder who could get drunk and spout off bigoted remarks. Wait. This ESPN.com story explains it better:
"Coming into the offseason our first priority was to improve our offense," new Twins general manager Bill Smith said. "We took a hit last week when Torii left, but Delmon Young has been the guy we've been targeting since the end of the season. We feel he is the best bat available, and we're excited to get him."
It was not crazy at the time. It seemed reasonable that Young could replace Hunter's bat. The outfield defense was another story, but he was young and athletic. Well, when he stayed slim anyway. At least he was a good dude:
Young, however, has a hotheaded history for a 22-year-old. The first overall pick in the 2003 draft famously flipped his bat into the chest of a Triple-A umpire in 2006 and received a 50-game suspension for that. He got a three-game ban in 2005 for bumping an umpire in Double-A.
Of course, this was all very easy to explain:
"He's got one bad incident on his record. He made a terrible mistake," Smith said. "We've done a lot of work on his makeup, and we've had an awful lot of people tell us he's a very good teammate, he's a fierce competitor, he wants to win, and he's the first one to arrive at the ballpark every day."
I wonder how many umpires Smith talked to.
The Rays were happy with their new toys:
"He's a guy we project to get a lot better quickly," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "We feel like we strengthened two areas of need, shortstop and starting pitching."
18.5 combined WAR over three years would seem to qualify under the category of "strengthened." Plus, Garza and Bartlett were later traded for about 50 prospects. Friedman also noted an old adage:
"The trade is about the present, not the future. We're a better ballclub because of this deal," Friedman said. "To get good young players you have to give up something good, and that's what we did."
Upon reading this, Delmon Young immediately tripped over his shoes and fell in a swimming pool.
Garza chimed in with a quote:
"He's ready to roll. That's what I like to hear. He made me feel at home, and all I can feel is that things are pointed on the up and up," Garza said from his home in Fresno, Calif. "It'll be fun to see how it plays out."
Well that's just a bunch of nonsense. Is that how they talk in Fresno?
But wait, the Rays can't get all the credit for this trade:
Friedman called the right-handed Morlan "one of the best young bullpen prospects out there."
Ha! Nice scouting, idiot! You only traded Delmon Young and Brendan Harris for two good players, not three! What a maroon! See, the Rays aren't perfect.
Again, I don't disagree with the premise behind this trade. The 2008 rotation could have been reasonably projected to include promising young starters like Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Matt Garza, Boof Bonser, Francisco Liriano and Glen Perkins. Stop laughing; you stop laughing right now! The Twins offense wasn't great and was going to take a step backward with the midseason trade of Luis Castillo and then Torii Hunter's departure. Trading one of the young arms for a young bat was a logical idea. The players involved just weren't quite right.
Garza was probably the best pitcher and possibly the best pitching prospect of the seven listed above. In addition, Garza has been the best pitcher since that trade, although that knowledge comes with the benefit of hindsight. Garza was also a bit of a loose cannon and may have been considered to be emotionally unstable (his recent Twitter rampage would back that idea up a bit). Delmon Young was considered a top notch hitting prospect. He was said to be a power/average guy with surprising speed. He did have surprising speed, I guess. The logic is there. The execution failed.
What if we could substitute Ben Zobrist and Nick Blackburn for Young and Garza? What if we could invent a device that helps us travel back in time to stop ill-advised trades? What if we could make fuel out of ice cream? What if?
Of course, there is the separate issue of the Twins not recognizing Jason Bartlett's value. Although, who is to say the Rays make this trade without Bartlett included?
Who won the WAR?
Garza for the Rays: 8.5 WAR
Bartlett for the Rays: 10.0 WAR
Young for the Twins: 0.9 WAR
Harris for the Twins: -0.6 WAR
Pridie for the Twins: -0.2 WAR
WAR won by the Rays! Ouch.
One Sentence Summary
I mean, seriously, if we could fuel cars with ice cream, we could eat the fuel and solve the energy crisis at the same time.